by Dan Senn
for a cappella
|From The Bay Psalm Book
The first book published in North America
SATB Choir - duration ci. 4'40"
|Bay Psalm 23
is the first work of Four Psalms Modal for a cappella
choir and uses a text from the first book published
in North America, The Bay Psalm Book,
written as a metrical Psalter.
Following the Gutenberg Bibles by more than a century, the Book holds a
unique place in American cultural and religious history. A group of New
England clergy, Richard Mather and others, transcribed biblical psalms
into this metered verse. Just 20 years after the Mayflower landed at
Plymouth Rock, in 1620, they printed 1700 copies of the book in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Original editions are extremely rare and
highly valued with only ten believed to still exist. Even so, online
representation are readily accessible.
The Bay Psalm Book followed the first Gutenberg Bibles by more than 150 years and laid the groundwork for texts of the American Revolution such as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.”
| 1 The Lord to me a
Want therefore I shall not,
He in the folds of tender grass
Doth make me down to lie
2 To waters calm he gently leads
Restore my soul doth he
He doth in paths of righteousness
For his names sake lead me.
3 Yea though in valley of death’s shade
I walk none ill I’ll fear,
Because thou art with me, thy rod,
and staff my comfort are.
4 For me a table thou hast spread
In presence of my foes;
Thou dost annoint my head with oil
My cup it over–flows.
5 Goodness and mercy surely shall
All my days follow me;
And in the Lord’s house I shall dwell
So long as days shall be.
Psalm 23 is a modal piece written in the dorian, then the
aolian, the harmonic minor, the aolian and, again, the dorian modes. A
piano reduction is included for rehearsals, but the piece
should be sung a cappella. It
is permissible to perform the work a half
or whole step lower than written. With the divisi, a minimum of eight
voices are needed to perform this work.
Bay Psalm 23 was written for and dedicated to my wife Caroline. It is the first work of Four Psalms Modal written between 2013-16 including I Have No Haughty Looks, Make Haste To Deliver Me, and Bay Psalm 121.
Press play beneath the lyrics (left) to hear a December 2016 recording by the Kuhn Choir of Prague, Lenka Navrátilová, choirmaster. A pdf of the full score available from the composer. Click here for a Sibelius vs with score on YouTube.
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